Anyone who bought an apartment in Jerusalem from May 5 on, will be eligible, as of Sunday, July 7, to receive a grant of NIS 95 thousand ($26 thousand) for an apartment purchased on land belonging to the Land Authority, or NIS 70.5 thousand ($19 thousand) for an apartment on private land.
But the schedule, set by the ministries of Finance and Housing, raises a halachic question for potential buyers: can they sign a contract next week, the period of the “Nine Days,” during which one avoids buying apartments and other large ticket items?
Although each individual must consult their own rabbi, it is likely that most rabbinic responses would permit the purchase, since the halacha is permissive regarding “davar ha’aved,” something of value that would be lost if not purchased during this period. There’s no doubt that anyone who misses the date on the eve of Tisha B’Av stands to lose as much as $26 thousand.
It’s puzzling, however, why Minister of Housing Uri Ariel, an observant Jew who should be well versed with halacha, did not use his influence to extend the grant period a few days after Tisha B’Av, to allow those who would prefer not to sign until after the fast to do so without the anxiety associated with the fear of transgressing or even just skirting the law.
After weeks of procrastination at the Ministry of Finance, affecting many buyers, this weekend the Accountant General Dept. of the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing Occupancy Dept. passed the new guidelines to mortgage banks.
The grants will be awarded to anyone who bought an apartment from May 5 until next Monday, the eve of Tisha B’Av, July 15. The majority of lots in Jerusalem are owned by the Land Authority, so that most apartment buyers will receive the higher award.
Those who signed a purchase contract within the specified dates don’t need to rush, according to government sources, because they have one whole year to use their right to the grant. On the other hand, if they haven’t signed, they should hurry up and sign a contract in the next few days. The grants are conditioned on continued occupation for 10 years, as each year an additional 10 percent of the award will become a grant. Selling the apartment in less than 10 years will require that owner pay back a portion of the grant.
Families in need that expand an existing apartment will also be entitled to a grant, under the same conditions.
Things will change for the worse come July 15. According to the guidelines, from July 15 to October 31, apartment buyers in Jerusalem will receive a grant of NIS 100 thousand ($27 thousand), contingent on the following conditions:
1. The new grant will be given only to first apartment buyers.
2. The new grant will only be given to buyers of new apartments.
3. The new grant will not be awarded to families in need who extend our apartment.
4. The new grant will be given only to apartments that cost NIS 1.8 million (roughly half a million dollars) or more (not including VAT).
The Jewish Press requested a comment from the Housing and Construction Ministry’s spokesperson, but so far we have not received one.